The importance of breakfast is a widely publicized topic among families and school-aged children – it increases attention span, improves grades, etc. But breakfast is not just important for school children, it is important for all of us, certainly us cyclists. During a night of sleep, which is technically an 8 hour fast, hormones trigger the use of our liver glycogen to maintain blood glucose levels. By morning, our liver glycogen levels are low and breakfast allows us to replenish those stores and fuel the body for the day ahead (particularly the bike ride).
A great way to start the morning is with a plentiful breakfast including primarily carbohydrates, some protein and fat (yes fat is OK! – but too much before a ride will take longer to digest) – my personal favorite, a bowl of oatmeal with apples, peanut butter, and little granola on top, add a couple of eggs if you’re a bigger guy. If you like to ride in the morning, and have the time, it is wise to eat 2-3 hours prior to riding; give yourself time to digest, or risk stomach upset (the body directs blood flow away from stomach, leading to lack of digestion which creates potential stomach issues) or losing your meal rather unpleasantly…
This 2-3 hour window is also important for racers. For those planning to race, eat a substantial, typical (eat what your body is used too, pre-race is not the time to experiment with new foods! Save that for training rides) meal – primarily carbohydrate – 3 hours pre-race (morning or afternoon race), and a carbohydrate snack 30 min to 1 hour pre-race (i.e. bar, gel, chews – preferred snack of choice). Example: Breakfast – 1 c oatmeal w/ honey or brown sugar, 1 TB peanut butter, banana, 1 c non-fat milk, 1 egg (I enjoy hardboiled); Snack: Rice cake w/ 1/2 – 1 TB PB and honey. *Meal size also is dependent on rider size, but caloric intake is a bit more complicated, bigger riders (I am 5’1, 115 lbs) may want to add toast, bagel, or another serving of oatmeal and an additional egg.
On a day-to-day basis, not all of us might want to wake up at 5am to eat breakfast just so we can get a quick ride in at 7 or 8, and then jam to work or school. If you are planning to fit in a 2+ hour ride, or are racing, give yourself plenty of time to fuel your body in the morning. However, if you are going for a quick 1-2 hr ride in the morning, you may find that you can get by without eating, or if anything a quick bowl of cereal, bagel, or sports drink (quick to digest food) will do. Because our muscles store glucose (muscle glycogen), we are able to rely on our muscle glycogen stores for fuel during those short morning rides. But after approximately 1.5hrs, those stores may become depleted, and our capacity for performing diminishes. At this point, you will require on-the-bike nutrition.
For those lunch time, or afternoon riders, have your big breakfast in the morning (lunch if you are riding later afternoon), and a small carbohydrate snack, i.e. Clif bar, and you will be good to go for that 1 hour hammer ride. For anything over 2 hours, on-the-bike nutrition becomes important. So what kind of on-the-bike nutrition you ask?
Stayed tuned for part 3 of Jammer’s nutrition series, and all will be revealed :)